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New Ears for New Music

Translated by Kenneth Chalmers

Constantin Floros

20th-century music is characterized by a bewildering multitude of trends and movements. Often several movements co-exist in contradiction to each other, in a reflection of the century’s intellectual currents and social and political changes, and the reactions they prompted. In this book, renowned musicologist and author Constantin Floros provides a survey of the different styles and tendencies in new music, presenting the most important composers from Schoenberg to Rihm in a series of fluent and readable essays that will appeal to connoisseurs and non-specialists alike. For Floros, music and biography are inseparable, and here he puts music in the context of the social and psychological background of its time.

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Beethoven and the Schoenberg School

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“Music is not merely another kind of amusement, but a musical poet’s, a musical thinker’s representation of musical ideas.” ARNOLD SCHOENBERG1 There is no question that Arnold Schoenberg was a person of great self- assurance, someone who always jealously guarded his independence. It would never have entered his head to take a lead from another artist, follow him, or even identify with him. Any dispute he entered into with another artist was al- ways creative, and when one thinks of his powerful, determined personality, as well as his maxim that the greatest thing an artist can aspire to is self- expression, this becomes easier to understand. If one tried to formulate what Schoenberg’s relationship to Beethoven was, the most appropriate term would be elective affinity. There were specific fea- tures of Beethoven’s personality and art that spoke to Schoenberg, but at the same time there was no question of identification with the composer. Character- istically, when Charlotte Dieterle, the wife of an American film producer, ap- proached Schoenberg in 1936 with a request to collaborate on a proposed film on Beethoven, Schoenberg politely declined. He gave as his reason that he would not be able to write a more or less objective “life-story” of Beethoven, or to adapt Beethoven’s music to a text written by another hand, because he always created independently. It was Otto Klemperer that he consequently suggested as a potential collaborator, on the grounds that, as he wrote: “He knows and really understands Beethoven really quite wonderfully,...

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